Drums, Fire And A Grilled Rabbit: The Birth Of Chicago’s Full Moon Jam

Full Moon Jam Thumbnail
Mackenzie Crosson / WBEZ
Full Moon Jam Thumbnail
Mackenzie Crosson / WBEZ

Drums, Fire And A Grilled Rabbit: The Birth Of Chicago’s Full Moon Jam

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Earlier this summer, Sofia Villela was in the middle of her after-work run along the lakefront trail in Uptown when she noticed something unusual: Hundreds of people were gathered in the middle of a soccer field watching performers dance with fire.

After talking with some attendees, Sofia learned that she had just stumbled upon the Full Moon Jam, a monthly fire-spinning, dancing and drumming event that happens near Chicago’s Foster Beach every summer. She was intrigued and wanted to learn more, so she reached out to Curious City with a question:

How did the Full Moon Fire Jam come to be, and how does it happen?

To answer Sofia’s question, we bring you an audio piece including the backstory (which involves a grilled rabbit), and a 360° video, allowing you to experience a typical night at the jam.

More about our questioner

Sofia Vilella Questioner Bio
Mackenzie Crosson / WBEZ

When Sofia Villela learned about the origins of the Full Moon Jam, she says she was even more in awe of the event, which has been going on now for 15 years.

She says she’s also impressed by the amount of work that goes into planning and running each jam, and the generosity of the fire-dancing community.

“It’s a free event, it’s people sharing all sorts of unique talents, and they’re just … offering them up for anyone to receive,” she says. “It’s a beautiful thing.”

She also learned that that generosity extends beyond the jams themselves, with classes organized by the fire dancers involved.

“To hear that they’ve set up this whole system of training people to do this stuff … it’s just not something you hear about often,” she says. “You’re not, like, at the YMCA doing a fire-spinning class.”

Sofia says she will attend future fire jams with a newfound appreciation for the event’s original vision.

“It’s really amazing to hear that it was this group of friends and a lot of love for each other and love for fire dancing and freedom of movement,” she says.

Sofia is a native New Yorker who came to Chicago to work in film distribution and social media marketing.

Monica Eng is a reporter for Curious City. You can write to her at meng@wbez.org.

The next Full Moon Jam will be held on Thursday, September 12th from 7-10 p.m. on Foster Beach. Chicago Full Moon Jam Productions is also hosting a MoonLight Parade on Saturday, September 21st from 7-9 p.m. at Millennium Park, with a free poi and hoop workshop at 6 p.m.